The Chicago Bears Preseason Preview: The Defensive Line

Bryan DietzlerSenior Analyst IJuly 17, 2010

CHICAGO - NOVEMBER 01: Tommie Harris #91 of the Chicago Bears is double-teamed blocked by Joe Thomas #73 and Eric Steinbach #65 of the Cleveland Browns at Soldier Field on November 1, 2009 in Chicago, Illinois. The Bears defeated the Browns 30-6.  (Photo by Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images)
Jonathan Daniel/Getty Images

The Bears had a busy offseason this past spring especially when free agency arrived.  Their third acquisition of the season was brought to Chicago to help them ignite what had been a less than stellar pass rush. That acquisition was former Carolina Panthers defensive end Julius Peppers. Peppers promises to make the defense as a whole that much better thanks to his pass rushing abilities and the way that opposing offenses will now have to account for him.

The Bears haven’t experienced this kind of talent (on the defensive line) since Tommie Harris was in his prime. Remember the days when the opposing offense was forced to double team Harris leaving somebody else open on the defense? Those days are coming back to Chicago.

As long as Peppers doesn’t go into hiding like he has done in the past and remains the same intense performer that concerns opposing offenses the Bears defensive line should do well this season. He is going to open up a lot of opportunities for others on the defensive line and this will help make everyone better. Expect a double digit sack season out of Peppers with at least a couple other guys getting close to six sacks.

As we mentioned, Harris had “prime” a few years ago and the team hopes that he is able to get back into that prime thanks to the arrival of Peppers. Harris has had some on the field (and in the locker room) issues the past couple of seasons and needs to tighten things up and get his head in the game.

If he can remain injury free and keep his problems to a minimum, we could see a bit of a resurgence out of Harris. Imagine what a fully healthy and fully dedicated Harris would mean to this defense. It would be amazing. Let’s hope that happens this season.

The Bears are going to give Mark Anderson a try as a starter opposite Peppers and hope that they will see the same player that they saw when he was a rookie in 2006.  That season was a monster season for Anderson but since then, he has tapered off and is definitely not the same player.  He has been exposed in run defense and just doesn’t seem to have what he had back in 2006.  He will get a chance to prove his doubters wrong this season and hopefully he will be able to produce especially now that he has an All-Pro counterpart on the other side.

Anthony Adams has been a steady force in the middle of that line since they acquired him a few seasons ago and there is nothing to indicate that the Bears will be interested in cutting him loose this offseason.  Adams has the body size to fill up the gaps and the speed to get up the field.  While he may not be very productive when it comes to rushing the quarterback, he can get pressure and that’s what the Bears like about him.  Look for him to stick with the team in 2010 and work well in a rotation at the tackle position.

Israel Idonije has quietly had himself a solid career in Chicago so far and could be used much more often on defense this coming season. In the past, Idonije has been asked to lose weight, gain it back, and then lose it again all in a bid to move him from either the defensive tackle position or to the end position. It looks like he’s going to play the end position this coming season and may rotate in with Anderson at times as needed. Idonije has been quiet but very consistent, and is one of the Bears better defensive performers.

Marcus Harrison started out training camp in 2009 on the heavy side and had to start the preseason on the physically unable to perform list as well as in the coaches doghouse.  After losing the weight, he came in and practiced well but not well enough to make it as a starter on the defensive line. Harrison worked his way into the lineup as part of the rotation and started in nine games and played pretty well despite remaining fairly quiet and not the subject of a lot of talk by the coaching staff.

Harrison will see some increased competition this season from some of the other guys that the Bears have brought in during the past couple of seasons (drafts) and as long as he comes to camp in shape, he should have the upper hand. Harrison is still a player with a lot of unrealized potential and if he can have a breakout season this year then the Bears may have finally gotten the player they thought they did when they drafted him.

Jarron Gilbert, the Bears third round pick just a season ago didn’t get to see much action but should get into the lineup a lot more this year.  The question is, where will the Bears play him?  There have been thoughts of playing him at defensive end or at defensive tackle and a lot of this decision will be based on how the Bears feel their depth is at each position.  Right now, it looks like Gilbert could project as a defensive tackle which would help the Bears out with their tackle rotation. 

He needs to have a good training camp in order to get a chance to get consideration for the rotation but he should be able to impress and be an important part of the team this season.

Second year player Henry Melton didn’t get an opportunity to play in the regular season in 2009 thanks to an injury that he suffered in the preseason. The Bears have brought him back and he figures to be a part of what they have at defensive end. He could work himself into the rotation there or gain a little bit more weight and slide in as a defensive tackle.  The sky may be the limit for Melton.

The Bears may have gotten one of the biggest steals in the draft this season after taking Corey Wootton out of Northwestern. Wootton scared many teams away with a rough injury history but as long as he stays healthy, he could be very productive. He could have a great season if he is able to hold up and the coaching staff is willing to work him into the defensive end rotation a lot in 2010.

The Bears brought back defensive tackle Matt Toeaina this season to help add some competition in training camp but Toeaina has the skill to play in the defensive end rotation and has shown a lot of promise in training camp (last year). Don’t be surprised if he sticks with the team after the final cuts come and contributes a little at some point this coming season.

The Bears brought in some additional talent at the defensive end position to help push some players as well as provide some depth at the position. While Barry Turner doesn’t have a lot of opportunity to make the roster, he could give the Bears some consideration for adding him to the practice squad when training camp is over.

Jimmy Saddler-McQueen and Averell Spicer round out the Bears depth at the defensive tackle position. Early reports out of some of the practices this spring state that Spicer is a talented player that may end up pushing for a final spot on the roster at the end position.  If either of these guys are going to make it, they are going to have to prove their special team’s value first and their value on defense second. But anything is possible.

The Bears should have one of the better defensive lines in the NFL next season providing that three things happen. First, they need to get 100 percent effort out of Peppers and Harris, two guys that can make a huge difference on the line. With an enhanced pass rush, the Bears should be able to help out a questionable secondary and make up for any deficiencies there.

A solid pass rush is going to be the key on defense for the Bears this season.  With a lot of questions in the secondary, both at cornerback and at safety, the Bears are going to have to do everything that they can to make sure that opposing quarterbacks don’t have time to complete passes. If the Bears fail at generating a pass rush this year not only will management and Peppers be failures but the defense will fail as well.